The Cheltenham Festival, jump racing’s annual showpiece, starts today on the wettest ground for 36 years.
www.bbc.com reports that the going at the Gloucestershire track is officially described as heavy, soft in places after rain in the build-up.
More than 250,000 spectators are expected over four days with bookmakers estimating up to £350m will be wagered.
Buveur D’Air, for the meeting’s all-time leading trainer Nicky Henderson, will attempt to defend his Champion Hurdle title on day one.
Henderson also has Altior – the favourite for Wednesday’s Queen Mother Champion Chase – and Might Bite, a big hope for the Gold Cup on Friday.
Months of anticipation climax with ‘the roar’ as punters cheer the runners at the start of the opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
The Festival’s all-time leading jockey Ruby Walsh, who only returned on Thursday after nearly four months out with a broken leg, rides Getabird for Mullins.
Kalashnikov represents Britain’s youngest trainer Amy Murphy, who has her first runner at the meeting at the age of 26.
Hundreds of horses will compete in a total of 28 races for record prize money totalling £4.6m during the meeting.
A guide for punters
Old course is left-handed, 1m 4f round, 9 fences to a circuit and a stiff climb to the winning post.
Favourites: (2013-18): 158 have won out of 619 races (25.5%). At the previous corresponding meetings, 44 have won out of 190 races (23.2%).
Leading trainers (2013-18): N Henderson 43-387, P Nicholls 43-401, P Hobbs 35-262, W P Mullins 32-256, N Twiston-Davies 32-262, D Pipe 23-236.
Leading jockeys (2013-18): B J Geraghty 38-249, R Johnson 35-278, S Twiston-Davies 28-279, R Walsh 25-107, T Scudamore 25-212, N Fehily 20-212.
N Henderson won the 2.10 in 2012, 2013 and 2017, and won the 3.30 in 2009, 2010 and 2017.
G Elliott won the 4.50 in 2011, 2015 and 2017.
W P Mullins won the 1.30 in 2013, 2014 and 2015, and won the 2.10 in 2015 and 2016, and won the 3.30 in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2016, and won the 4.10 in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.
D Pipe won the 2.50 in 2008, 2016 and 2017.
First run since wind op: Brain Power (2.10), Sizing Codelco (2.50), De Plotting Shed (5.30).
Best for favourites: 7 favourites have won the 4.10 at Cheltenham in the last 10 years.